92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012
Hazard Examination of Risk: Thunderstorm Activity and the Beach
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Paul J. Croft, Kean University, Union, NJ; and M. Kyle

The occurrences of summer thunderstorms pose a significant hazard to large recreational populations at the “Jersey Shore” and represent an amalgam of societal dimensions. While forecasts are readily available, it is unclear that they elicit appropriate responses by emergency managers and outdoor facility managers as well as the population of individuals and business interests in the region. Indeed, although safety protocols exist in terms of beach protection and/or evacuation, it is not clear that the level of potential impacts – in terms of injuries or deaths, economic losses, or similar – are very well known. In order to determine the types and magnitudes of impacts on the population, safety protocols were examined for select southern New Jersey beaches to assess the threat posed by thunderstorms. As thunderstorms carry outdoor threats such as lightning, heavy rainfall, flash flooding, and gusty winds regardless of severity all occurrences were considered. Beach areas found within the municipalities of Atlantic City, Ventnor City, and Margate City as well as those in Ocean City and Upper Township (Strathmere) were considered in order to provide representative populations (e.g., public versus private beaches; boardwalk and family oriented venues versus recreational boating/fishing). Each of these areas covered approximately thirty kilometers of shoreline comprised of beach houses, open beach areas, boardwalks, and similar outdoor venues and activities. At select locations in each of these regions safety protocols were reviewed with regard to “call to action” and decision-making policies in terms of the notification and/or protective measures (e.g., evacuation) of people from an affected beach area due to the occurrence, approach, or expectation of thunderstorm activity. To quantify impacts and effectiveness, beach counts and additional data sources were identified to determine the number of people at risk and to provide an estimate of economic consequences of actions taken to address that risk. When these and similar data were considered over a longer period of time a risk assessment was possible with regard to a cost-loss approach: how many people in danger, what costs would be experienced due to thunderstorm activity; and how effectively would these be addressed by the existing safety protocols and why (or why not). Together these measures provide some clarification of the myriad issues involved in summer leisure activities and business in the coastal zone.

Supplementary URL: